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Volume VI Issue 14
|| 8 September 2010
I was sorry to miss my congregation's Labor Sunday sermon this past weekend. Our featured speaker shared her experiences in working for a major international retailer, notorious for its union busting and other unjust labor practices. Among reactions to the service have been comments that it was too "political" or too "pro-union." I found inclinations to respond with "and your point?" or "well, the UMC is pro-union" rather unhelpful. But why is it that organized labor should be so controversial? Aren't we taught from kindergarten the importance of cooperation? That we are stronger together than we are on our own? And that everyone has the right to be treated fairly?
Knowing MFSA's historic involvement in the labor movement, I consulted our archives and came across a newspaper article reporting on the 1916 General Conference: "Methodists Split Over Union Labor: Fight to Continue today." Apparently less-than-civil public discussions are nothing new:
"The argument at times was unusually vigorous. There were cries of 'No, no!' from many delegates when Mr. Arter [identified as a 'capitalist and one of the leading laymen in the General Conference'], in his address, said that 'murder, robbery, theft, every crime in the catalogue [sic]' had been committed by members of the class of workers with which the Methodist Episcopal Church was asked to align itself. Mr. Wallace [ex-lieutenant governor of CA and labor advocate] interrupted the speaker with the statement that he had no right to make such accusations at such a gathering. 'From the platform of this Methodist Conference a man is charging a whole class with murder, and it is out of order,' Mr. Wallace insisted. 'I ask that the language be stricken out.' Mr. Arter attempted to continue, but Mr. Wallace refused to resume his seat until Bishop Lewis had ruled that Mr. Arter's language had been 'unfortunate.'"
Sound familiar? The work of justice reduced to sensationalist sound bites on the floor of a tense meeting. That's why, in addition to some great articles on labor and the faith community, we're directing you to our partners at Interfaith Worker Justice where you can plug into grassroots labor organizing. For a chance at small-scale civil discourse, consider hosting a Connecting Voices meet-up; we've given you five reasons why it's a great idea. And don't forget to check out two new OnFire blog entries and the Lighten the Burden conference, sponsored by the UMC's Global AIDS Fund.
Grace and peace,
MFSA Outreach and Communications Coordinator
Get involved with Interfaith Worker Justice
Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) is a network of people of faith that calls upon religious values in order to educate, organize, and mobilize the religious community in the United States on issues and campaigns that will improve wages, benefits, and conditions for workers, and give voice to workers, especially workers in low-wage jobs. Here are a few ways that you can get involved:
Honor a Worker
Throughout the month of September, you can honor and thank a special worker in your life with an IWJ Tribute Card.
Attend the Organizing for Worker Justice Training (Oct. 3-7, 2010)
Do you want to learn how to strengthen partnerships between religious and labor leaders? Understand the fundamentals of Direct Action Organizing? Design creative interfaith actions? If so, then this training is for you! Register by September 15.
National Day of Action to Stop Wage Theft
November 18 is one week before Thanksgiving, a time when we celebrate our plenty at feasts throughout the nation. But workers who have had their legal wages stolen will not be putting turkey on their family tables this season. IWJ is urging worker centers, labor unions and worker advocates throughout the country to organize an event on November 18. Contact IWJ Public Policy Director Ted Smukler for more information.
Labor Day Reflections
"Labor Day religious lessons"
by Jennifer Butler
While [some attack] social justice as a sinister liberal conspiracy, centuries of religious teaching emphasize the duty to pay workers a living wage, the essential role of unions and the need for a more just distribution of wealth. Read more...
"Labor Day of Mourning:
The Religious Challenge in a Shattered Job Market"
by Peter Laarman
On Labor Day we honor work and workers. But what happens when the job market is in such turmoil that the very idea of stable, sustaining employment begins to evaporate before our eyes? Read more...
Have labor resources to share? Post them on our Facebook site.
Five reasons to host a Connecting Voices meet-up
1. It's a great way to have intentional conversation and deepen relationships with others in your community. Get to know folks in your church, district and conference by inviting them into your home (or to a local fair trade coffee shop).
2. It's Holy Conferencing we can actually enjoy--free of Robert's Rules! The focus of Connecting Voices is theological reflection, not organizing. A Connecting Voices gathering is a place to wrestle with questions of faith in a supportive community.
3. It raises awareness of the Methodist progressive movement in your area. You can advertise your event online on our interactive map by emailing us your information. This way, you can locate and get in touch with other progressive folks in your area.
4. It's easy! All the materials you need can be found on our website. The Leaders's Guide tells you everything you need to know about planning and hosting a meet-up. There are fliers, posters and postcards for advertisement (should you want them), and easy ways to "report back," like sharing thoughts and photos on our Facebook page.
5. We want (and need) your feedback. Having just launched this summer, we want to know how to "tweak" our materials for the best experience. You can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Sparks: OnFire in action|
New on the OnFire blog this week are two pieces concerning young adults in the UMC. Read R. Warren Gill's reflection on this July's Global Young People's Convocation in Berlin, Germany, and Rachel Birkhan-Rommelfanger's thoughts on the "Catch 22 of Young Adult Leadership."
If you are interested in contributing to the OnFire blog, please contact Shannon Sullivan.
Who is OnFire? We are United Methodist young adults reclaiming our Wesleyan heritage of
spiritual and social transformation. We are empowering young adults to
impact our church and our world. OnFire organizes as the young adult
chapter of MFSA.
|Chapters and Partners|
Lighten the Burden III AIDS conference
The UMC Global AIDS fund will be hosting Lighten the Burden III, a United Methodist AIDS conference from Oct. 14-16 in Dallas, Texas. This event promises to provide spiritual and educational fuel for the journey as the United Methodist Church works to prevent HIV/AIDS. The conference will offer participants practical ways to get involved in HIV/AIDS education, advocacy, prevention, and awareness, as well as mobilize and influence their communities through action.Please visit Lighten the Burden III for more information and to register by Sept. 20 to guarantee your spot in this educational and spiritual journey to work toward an AIDS-free world.